(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN Volunteer translator)
Bogotá, November 3, 2010
Dr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
President of the Republic
Dear Mr. President:
Through His Excellency the Vice President, I requested an appointment with you at the time our Peace Community made a pilgrimage to Bogotá in the first week of November 2010. We wanted to explain our situation to you and get your opinion on it.
As you well know, our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was formed in 1997, following a proposal by Monsignor Isaias Duarte Cancino, the first Bishop of Apartadó. He suggested that we very conscientiously take on the role of the civilian population in the midst of the armed conflict and demand respect for their rights, maintaining distance from and denying any kind of collaboration with any armed actor. That is what we expressed in our statement that we made public on March 23, 1997, and in our regulations, where we set out precise rules for the respect of these principles.
The reaction of the government, however, has been to try to exterminate our Community, using every possible mechanism: bombing, judicial frame-ups, destruction of our crops, burning our houses, sexual abuses, pillage of our means of subsistence; theft of pack and domestic animals; destruction of schools, power plants and other community utilities; armed robbery to rob us of money earned by the sale of goods; slander and defamation spread by the mass media; threats, permanent advertisements of our destruction; cooptation of demobilized guerrillas and paramilitaries, both truly and falsely demobilized, in order to form a paramilitarism focused on the destruction of the community; blackmail, bribery and favors for those who would abandon the Community; purchase of false witnesses; usurpation of judicial functions by the armed forces; illegal census-taking; spying by the DAS on the members of the Internal Council and on our supporters, theft of goods belonging to those displaced; illegally taking over houses and land belonging to displaced people; massive campaigns to discredit us in the foreign media; taking illegal photographs and putting together photo albums used to buy perjured witnesses; theft of computers and cell phones; illegal tapping of telephones; forcing prosecutors, judge, appellate judges, Inspector General’s staff and public defenders to uphold the President’s strategies to eliminate or incriminate our members; violation of every procedural rule in so many frame-ups; invasion of paramilitaries in the area and in the territory and neighborhoods of our Peace Community; destruction of symbolic and consecrated structures in memory of our victims, and the guarantee of impunity for the victimizers. All of this has been minutely outlined in chronological order, with records of places, dates, names and circumstances in the book that we enclose: “Fusil o Toga, Toga y Fusil” (“Rifle or Robe, Robe and Rifle”) (2010).
All of these crimes were immediately brought to the attention of the President at the time, to his ministers and advisers, to government agencies with control authority, to the offices of the United Nations and to diplomatic missions. But they have never done anything to stop these actions or to stop the systematically criminal policies of the government, neither to punish the guilty nor to make the victims whole, nor to prevent a recurrence of the horrors.
Not only the Commission but also the Inter-American Court for Human Rights has for many years ordered protective measures for the Peace Community. The Commission ordered protective measures on December 17, 1997. Then, on October 9, 2000, the Court prdered interim relief in view of the Government’s failure to comply with the earlier decree. In addition, the Constitutional Court has ordered respect for the rights of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in three decisions, each more trenchant and powerful than the last, but without any effect whatever: Decision T-249 in 2003; Decision T-327 in 2004 and Decision T-1025 in 2007.
In the last Decision, the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Defense to furnish reports every two weeks to the Public Defender on the protection being provided to the members of the Peace Community and those who furnish them with services. The Court also ordered the Attorney General to furnish monthly reports to the Public Defender on progress in overcoming impunity for all those crimes. While coldly formalistic reports have been furnished, they are almost identical for each period, with very little variation. These reports do not accomplish their objectives and they reveal no progress at all. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Defense reports only mention military operations carried out in the area. They present them as actions “protecting” the Peace Community when, in fact, the great majority of those operations have been attacks. During those attacks there have been numerous abuses and serious violations of human rights. For their part, the Attorney General’s reports show no advances in justice and do not even recognize how systematic the crimes are. They typically pay no attention whatever to international law, i.e. to crimes against humanity.
The only criminal investigation where there has been any progress, thanks to pressure from a group of members of the U.S. Congress who carried out their own investigation, was in respect to the massacre on February 21, 2005. They requested economic retaliation against the Army Brigade implicated in the massacre. However, the not-guilty decision of the Second Specialized Judge for Antioquia, Catalina Henao Rendón, on August 4, 2010 is scandalous in the extreme. It ignores strong evidence of the participation by the soldiers in the murders and acts of barbarity. After she admitted that the soldiers had met, planned and worked together with the paramilitaries, even after the victims had been cut in pieces, she refused to find them guilty even of “aggravated criminal conspiracy” reasoning that if they had confronted their paramilitary colleagues or had tried to stop them, they would have put their own lives at risk, and such heroism cannot be demanded of anyone.
But even though the judicial apparatus, acting with scandalous impunity, and the armed forces and security agencies, by continuing to carry out crimes in cooperation with the paramilitaries, have not stopped persecuting our Peace Community, the Presidents and all of the executive agencies have failed to carry out the constitutional obligations requiring them to guarantee the rights of the citizens. (Article 188 of the National Constitution and Articles 6 and 198 of that Constitution)
The conduct of ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez was particularly serious. In menacingly denigrating our Peace Community on two occasions, on May 27, 2004 and on March 20, 2005 , he flagrantly violated constitutional rules. According to Constitutional Court Decision T-1191/04, he is subject to penal, disciplinary, political, civil, and international sanctions. Nevertheless, the Prosecution Committee of the House of Representatives voted in August 2010 to place Record No. 1712 permanently on file. They did this without any investigation, which reveals extreme political corruption in that Committee, obligating a group of members of Congress to turn the case over to the International Criminal Court.
President Uribe himself, after having carried on, through his subordinates, including the Vice President, an exchange with out Community aimed at agreement on the best location for a police station in the area that would not violate the principles of a Peace Community, unilaterally broke off the discussions and ordered the armed forces to take over the living and working spaces of our Community. That is what motivated our displacement from the village of San José and the break-off of all conversations with the Government. It made it evident to us that those discussions were useless and showed extreme disrespect for our values, most of all because the decision was made in the context of the horrifying massacre of February 21, 2005, apparently carried out by agents of the Government.
Ever since then, our Community, working through the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, placed four (4) conditions on any return to the conference table with the Government. Those conditions, about which President Uribe’s government never made any comment, were the following:
1. Reverse the decision to locate the armed forces in the heart of the village of San José and return to the discussions about the best location for the headquarters, according respect to the holding of the Constitutional Court in its Decision T-1206/01.
2. In order to restore the honor, dignity and good name to our Community, the Government should retract the slanders uttered on May 27, 2004 and March 20, 2005.
3. Recognize the Humanitarian Zones identified by the Community with the support of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights and this nation’s Inspector General, in obedience to the key principles of international humanitarian law.
4. Set up a Justice System Evaluation Commission. The Commission would carry out a thorough examination of the justice system to find out why there has been no action on the crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated against our Community and the farming population in our area.
On numerous occasions, the Government has failed to carry out its obligation to send reports to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights on the dates due, and when the reports are sent, they avoid any concrete response to the petitions mentioned earlier, refusing to provide the explanations requested by the Honorable Court about the horrifying crimes carried out by agents of the Colombian Government. Furthermore, those reports contain numerous falsehoods that have been pointed out timely in the comments made by our representative.
In his second term, President Uribe designated two demobilized guerrillas as “peacemaking representatives”. The two had fought as guerrillas in areas near our Peace Community and had committed numerous crimes against our Community and against the rural population in the area. After their demobilization, they were co-opted by the Army’s 17th Brigade and dedicated themselves to spreading slanders against our Peace Community.
Both the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the Court, as well as the Constitutional Court of Colombia, the Foreign Ministry, and even the Ministry of Defense and the Public Defender’s Office have repeatedly insisted on re-establishing the discussions between the Government and our Peace Community. Their goal is to reach agreement on protective measures and to overcome the systematic violations of human rights and the perpetration of crimes against humanity. Because of that and because of the deplorable situation left by the previous government, characterized by the strong presence of paramilitaries who act in concert with the armed forces, and because of the permanent stigmatizing and persecution of our Peace Community and of the surrounding population through violations of human rights, we are resorting to the constitutional right of petition, established in Article 23 of the national constitution and in Articles 5 et seq.
of the Code of Administrative Procedure. We present you, President Juan Manuel Santos, the following petitions:
1) Define the government’s position on the four minimal and elemental conditions of good faith that our Peace Community has established for a return to discussions with the government.
2) Dismantle the numerous paramilitary groups that are active in the region of our Peace Community in evident concert with the armed forces.
3) Designate officers and personnel to command the 17th Brigade and the Urabá Police who will obey the constitution, the laws, international human rights treaties and universal moral principles, to replace those who up to now and for decades have only known how to violate every legal rule and every principle of humanity. They have perpetrated horrendous crimes in the name of, and enabled by, the government.
4) Considering the total impunity that has covered the hundreds of crimes that have victimized us, and considering the profound corruption that has harmed the judicial system, permit the immediate intervention of the International Criminal Court and other sources of universal justice where the hundreds of crimes that have harmed us have been documented.
5) Initiate processes to investigate who was responsible, through truth commissions that would include the participation of inter-governmental agencies and international civil society, and initiate procedures for repairing the enormous damage caused by the government ever since the creation of our Peace Community.
6) Revoke the designation as “peacemaking representatives” of the demobilized guerrilla fighters, alias “Samir” and alias “Karina” and repair the damage that they have done to the Peace Community with the help of rewards and training from the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army. They have perpetrated numerous crimes of slander and defamation.
We will deliver this Petition as part of our pilgrimage to Bogotá (November 1 – 9, 2010), accompanied by more than 50 delegates from communities in other countries that have been in solidarity with us in these times.
We will be thankful to you, Mr. President, for a response to our petitions within the legal time frame. They may be directed to the one who has represented us before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights and other international agencies, Fr. Javier Giraldo Moreno, S.J.
Javier Giraldo Moreno
Representative of the Community before the Inter-American Court and other agencies
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